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Diary of a Fantasy Madman
The Price Is Right Now PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:00

Buying low.

If successfully implemented, it’s the strategy that can lead to a fantasy title. The problem, however, is that choosing the right players to buy low is easier said than done. I tend to pay most attention to track record, as over the long haul, a player’s stat line, particularly that of a hitter, should roughly resemble his career averages. But, this approach doesn’t always work, as the player could simply be having a bad year, and there are always those outlier seasons.

In Mixed Tout Wars, I just completed a trade in which one of the guys heading my way is Billy Butler. I’ve never been a huge fan of Butler due to his sub-par home run production, as he’s reached the 20-homer plateau just twice in his seven big league seasons. But he’s always posted high on-base totals (.361 career OBP), and the fact that his OBP sits at an uninspiring .323 through 95 games this season suggests that a stat correction is a distinct possibility. And, for me, that would be a very good thing, as the OBP standings distribution is very tight. So this was a category-based decision, with the most important factor being that Butler’s trade value is at an all-time low right now, and I targeted him as someone who could net me a decent profit if things break right.

Who are some other intriguing buy-low options as we embark upon the unofficial second half of the 2014 campaign? Glad you asked. Let’s take a trip around the diamond.

Brian McCann – Arguably a top-5 fantasy backstop heading into the season, McCann is batting a meager .240 through 87 games and is on pace to fall short of the 20-home run mark for the first time since 2007. But he’s hitting .340 with a .818 OPS so far in July.

1B  Nick Swisher – The streaky slugger was as cold as can be through the first three months of the season, with a .192 average and a grand total of five homers and 25 RBI. July has been a different story, as he’s batting .293 with three home runs and 15 RBI. Keep in mind that Swish has hit at least 21 homers in each of his nine full big league seasons.

2B  Dustin Pedroia – Starting to show improvement (.305 AVG in July) following a mediocre start to the season, but four homers and two steals through 95 games simply doesn’t cut it, and his .277 AVG is a far cry from his .300 career mark. Still, he’s less than a year removed from elite fantasy second baseman status. I haven’t given up on him.

SS  J.J. Hardy – You drafted him for his high-end power production from the shortstop position but have so far gotten four homers through 88 games. Go figure. But that doesn’t change the fact that he averaged more than 25 homers per season over the previous three years. Like Swisher, Hardy is streaky. Those home runs could come in bunches.

3B  Chase Headley – His 2012 breakout season can now be safely called an anomaly, but I expected Headley to easily improve upon last year’s .250-13-50 line. He still might, but it will be close, especially in the batting average department, where he needs to make up significant ground. The good news is that he’s hitting .333 in July. He’s recently gone back to his old grip of the bat. Perhaps that’s done the trick. The window to acquire him at a discount is closing fast.

OF  Carlos Gonzalez – Injuries have always been Car-Go’s chief nemesis, and this year has been no different. But he’s healthy again now and he’s usually pretty good when healthy. That said, Gonzalez owners might be so fed up with the injuries along with his disappointing .253 average this year that they could be willing to sell him at a discount. How about Nelson Cruz for Gonzalez? Interesting, right? That is, interesting, but risky.

OF  Shin-Soo Choo – Outside of a strong OBP, he’s done very little to help his fantasy owners this year. Matching last season’s 21 homers seems unlikely and he isn’t running at all (three steals in six attempts). But he’s a proven across-the-board fantasy producer, so trying to get him at a bargain rate can’t hurt. Playing half of his games at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark doesn’t hurt either.

OF  Carlos Beltran – His stint in pinstripes has so far been a disaster, but much of the blame can be attributed to injuries. Now that he’s recovered from his latest malady, a concussion, Beltran will look to get his season back on track. Four hits in eight at-bats since the break with a homer and two RBI is a nice way to start. In one of my 12-team mixed leagues, he’s currently on the waiver wire.

SP  Matt Cain – He’s been a longtime fantasy favorite of mine, so maybe my judgment is clouded, and I can’t really find any stats to prove the theory that his 2014 struggles are a fluke. So instead, I’ll mention his 1.86 ERA over his last three starts and hope that’s a convincing enough reason to target him in a trade.

RP  Sergio Romo – Since being removed from the closer role back on June 29th, Romo has been shaky, tossing 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and striking out nine. Santiago Casilla has yet to allow a run as the ninth inning fill-in for the Giants, so it might take some time for Romo to reclaim his old job. But I think Bruce Bochy’s preference all along has been to eventually go back to Romo. If he’s on waivers in your league and you have an open bench spot, picking up the former top-tier stopper could pay off.

That’s exactly what I did. And it was in an NL-only league.

Talk about buying low.

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 July 2014 08:02
 
No Team Does It Better PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 06 July 2014 00:00

Billy Beane was at it again on Friday, but in a role reversal, the A’s were not the team trading for prospects. Oakland enters play Sunday boasting both the best record and the highest scoring offense in the Majors. Their pitching isn’t too bad either, sporting an American League best 3.16 ERA. But there’s always room for improvement, and that pitching just got a whole lot better with the additions of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. By focusing solely on Samardzija’s 2-7 record, you would never know that the 29-year-old is enjoying his finest season to date, with a 2.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and almost a strikeout per inning through 17 starts. Being that this is his first ace-caliber season, it might be too soon to label him as a legitimate #1 starter, but he’s close. Speaking of career-best seasons, Hammel is in the midst of one of those, as he heads to Oakland with a 2.98 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Still, considering his inconsistent track record, Hammel should be viewed more as a very good #4, and that’s exactly where he will slot in for the A’s, behind Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Samardzija.

Beane is clearly going for it this time, but the added appeal of Samardzija is that he’s actually signed through next season, so this isn’t simply a three-month rental. And that probably played a role in his willingness to give up top prospect Addison Russell. If the A’s are not in contention at this time next year, you can bet that Samardzija will be dealt for more prospects, kind of like what the club did in 2009 when they sent Matt Holliday, who they had acquired from the Rockies the previous season for a package headlined by Carlos Gonzalez, to the Cardinals for top prospect Brett Wallace. That didn’t work out too well, but there were other moves that worked out quite well for Beane, like the 2004 trade that brought Dan Haren to Oakland for Mark Mulder or the 2007 deal that shipped Haren to Arizona and made Car-Go a member of the A’s. I guess my point is that for Oakland, there will be more Addison Russells to cash in for “win now” guys. That’s just how they do things out there.

The team I root for operates in an entirely different way, and quite honestly, I’m getting tired of it. You see, the Yankees never seem to have any appealing prospects to either use as trade chips or even hold onto with the idea that lowering the average age of the 25-man roster is a good thing. Since the turn of the century, the number of Yankee prospects who made a significant contribution to the big league club isn’t even close to a double-digit number. You’ve got Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang (remember him?), Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, David Robertson and to a lesser degree, Ivan Nova. I’d like to say that I’m forgetting some, but the sad truth is that I doubt it. As for the trade chip category, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy netted Curtis Granderson in a three-team deal that sort of worked out for all parties involved. But for the most part, the trades the Yankees make these days are of the salary dump variety, like the Alfonso Soriano deal last year or the Ichiro Suzuki trade the year before that. But what if the team trading the big-name player wants a young player with some degree of upside in return? Forget about it.

Instead, we’ll use the free agent market to upgrade our roster and continue to pay exorbitant prices for guys who are either at the tail end of their prime (Jacoby Ellsbury) or well past it (Carlos Beltran). The only problem is that the free agent period comes only once a year, and when you’re 43-43 on July 6th and need to do something to improve your squad, trades are really your best option. And when you don’t have any young pieces to attract a rebuilding team like the Cubs, you’re pretty much out of luck.

Maybe this will change soon. Maybe the days of the Yankee minor league system being a laughingstock will eventually come to an end. I do hear that they have some promising talent at the lower levels. Now that’s a refreshing thought. Life would be so much easier.

Just ask Billy Beane.

Last Updated on Sunday, 06 July 2014 07:52
 
The Value of Value PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 29 June 2014 00:00

In NFBC Draft Champions leagues, it’s all about the middle to late rounds. Since there’s no such thing as a waiver wire in this format, a 15-team mixed league that kicks off the season with a 50-round draft, these rounds become all the more important, as an early-round blunder could be made up for by a high-profit selection later on in the draft. In the reserve rounds, securing injury insurance for your regulars, especially your starting pitchers, while at the same time taking a chance on a few underappreciated veterans along with prospects who could contribute to your squad at some point down the road is vital. Matt Dominguez (27th round), Rex Brothers (31st round) and Bartolo Colon (34th round) are three examples of players I drafted last season who easily outperformed their price tag. This year, there’s Wily Peralta (22nd round), Garrett Jones (24th round) and Juan Francisco (29th round).

Well, we are almost exactly halfway through the 2014 season, so in order to prove that in NFBC Draft Champions leagues, it’s all about the middle to late rounds, here’s my Midseason All-Value Team. Next to each player’s name, I’ve included his current positional ranking on the NFBC Player Rater, the round in which he was drafted in my league and the current place in the standings of the team that drafted that player.

Devin Mesoraco (#3 C) – Drafted in 16th round by 11th place team

1B  Jose Abreu (#3 1B) – Drafted in 6th round by 4th place team

2B  Brian Dozier (#3 2B) – Drafted in 14th round by 10th place team

SS  Dee Gordon (#1 2B)* – Drafted in 32nd round by 5th place team

3B  Todd Frazier (#1 3B) – Drafted in 13th round by 3rd place team

OF  Nelson Cruz (#3 OF) – Drafted in 11th round by 5th place team

OF  Michael Brantley (#4 OF) – Drafted in 17th round by 11th place team

OF  Charlie Blackmon (#5 OF) – Drafted in 28th round by 8th place team

SP  Johnny Cueto (#1 SP) – Drafted in 9th round by 3rd place team

SP  Scott Kazmir (#6 SP) – Drafted in 19th round by 15th place team

CL  Francisco Rodriguez (#1 RP) – Drafted in 32nd round by 2nd place team

*Note that even though Gordon has been playing 2B, he’s still SS eligible, so I shifted him over in order to fit in Dozier.

Now listen, “value” is a relative word, so even though it might seem strange that a 6th rounder and a 9th rounder are included here, did you really expect Jose Abreu to be this good? Most pre-season projections didn’t even have him finishing the year with 25 homers, yet he has already slugged 25 longballs over his first 68 big league games. Yeah, Johnny Cueto was considered to be a legitimate top-30 fantasy starting pitcher heading into the season, but a 1.88 ERA and 0.83 WHIP through 17 starts?

But back to the point. So does this really prove that in NFBC Draft Champions leagues, it’s all about the middle to late rounds? Not quite. Only six of the 11 players on this All-Value squad reside on teams that are in the top-5 of the standings, with the average standings position being 7th.

Sure, the middle to late rounds are important. But I guess the early rounds are kind of important too.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 June 2014 08:42
 
The Road Not Taken PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 22 June 2014 00:00

Get over it! That’s what I try to tell myself throughout the season whenever my mind wanders to the subject of draft day mistakes. But I can’t help it. Now listen, my Mixed Auction Tout Wars squad is doing quite well, residing in the top-4 of the standings for the vast majority of the year, thanks in large part to a handful of high-profit auction purchases, including Nelson Cruz ($10), Alcides Escobar ($3) and Denard Span ($1). That said, the goal shouldn’t be to finish in fourth place. I can do better than that. As a former New York Jets head coach once said, “You play to win the game.” Second guessing yourself is a lot tougher in auction leagues, as a player’s final price tag in the event that you had raised the bid will forever remain a mystery. Also, a lot depends on when in the proceedings a certain player was nominated.  But here are five decisions that I wish I could have back. Note that in all of these instances, I had the two players valued similarly. Oh, and I would have saved money too.

Drafting Ryan Braun ($38) instead of Giancarlo Stanton ($26)

Both Braun and Stanton carried some risk, but I figured that Braun, despite the PED situation, was a wiser choice than Stanton, who was coming off two straight injury-marred seasons and would suffer from a lack of lineup protection. Well, the Marlins offense ranks 4th in the NL in runs scored and Stanton leads the Senior Circuit in home runs (20) and RBI (57). Braun has been OK, but he’s performing more like a $15 player, on pace to finish the year with 21 homers and 83 RBI. Both of those numbers would represent career-lows over a full season.

Drafting Chase Headley ($15) instead of Brett Lawrie ($13)

Lawrie has yet to live up to the once lofty expectations, and he sports a meager .244 batting average through 68 games this season. But the Blue Jays third sacker has finally managed to stay off the DL, and if he can keep up his current pace, we’re looking at a 26 HR, 81 RBI campaign. Meanwhile, Headley has been an absolute nightmare (.283 OBP, 6 HR, 23 RBI through 56 games). I didn’t expect a 2012 repeat, but I certainly didn’t expect this.

Drafting Chris Carter ($10) instead of Michael Morse ($2)

I had a good feeling about Morse this year, though injuries have been a recurring issue for him throughout his career. But for some reason, I opted to drink the Carter kool-aid, figuring that he was younger and possessed legitimate 40 HR upside. Plus, he does walk a bit, so his woeful batting average would not be as detrimental in an OBP league. So let’s see. Heading into Saturday’s games, Morse has hit the same number of homers as Carter but has collected 14 more RBI and sports an OBP that is 70 points higher. Carter is someone who I will never own again. The 13 home runs are nice, but he’s too much of a liability in every other category.

Drafting Wilson Ramos ($14) instead of Evan Gattis ($11)

This one is a little unfair, as injuries have limited Ramos to 24 games this season. But the reality is that I was fully aware of his injury history when I made him my #1 backstop but still paid full price for him, hoping that 2014 would be the long-awaited 25-plus HR campaign. Unfortunately, this guy just cannot stay on the field. I was skeptical about Gattis’ chances of repeating his breakout 2013 season. Not only is he repeating it, but he’s been even better in 2014.

Drafting Gio Gonzalez ($16) instead of Masahiro Tanaka ($13)

Talk about unfair, no one knew exactly what to expect from Tanaka in his inaugural big league season. But even the most optimistic Tanaka supporters would not have believed that in late-June, he would be by far the leading candidate to capture the AL Cy Young Award. I’ve always been a fan of Gio, but his inconsistency this year has caught me by surprise. Maybe he will find his groove now that he has hopefully shaken off the rust from his DL stint. Still, it’s kind of depressing to wonder what could have been if I had chosen to embrace the unknown of Tanaka rather than avoid it.

On the bright side, each of my 14 league mates are probably wondering the same thing.

But by now, they have probably gotten over it.

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 June 2014 08:03
 
At What Cost? PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 15 June 2014 00:00

When it comes to my Tout Wars Mixed Auction league, FAAB might as well be renamed CLAB, as speculative closers have routinely dominated the proceedings. Being that there’s a finite supply of saves and guessing right can result in immediate points gained in the standings, this is totally understandable. On the other hand, guessing wrong could put you at a serious FAAB (or CLAB) disadvantage for the remainder of the season. Anyway, just out of curiosity, I reviewed the archives. And I wasn’t surprised by what I found. The five most expensive purchases so far in 2014 have been closers, or more accurately, relievers who would receive an opportunity to pitch in the ninth inning and would maybe hold onto the job long-term. Maybe. In hindsight of course, let’s grade these pickups.

1. Joe Smith (Purchased for $50 by Paul Singman on 4/28)

Isn’t vickrey bidding fun? Even though Paul actually placed a bid of $86 for Smith’s services, he likely did not expect to shell out 50 bucks. At the time, it did seem like Smith had a decent chance of holding onto the Angels’ closer job for awhile, but all Paul got from his pricey investment was four saves. Ernesto Frieri is now back to closing full-time and Smith is back on the waiver wire. Look, there’s value in four saves, but 50 FAAB dollars worth of value? Not quite.

Grade: D

2. Francisco Rodriguez (Purchased for $34 by Cory Schwartz on 4/7)

34 FAAB bucks is a lot to spend on any one player, but in the case of K-Rod, it’s been well worth it, as Cory has been rewarded with 19 saves to go along with a 2.30 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. Heading into the season, Rodriguez was completely off the mixed league radar, but Jim Henderson’s spring training struggles resulted in K-Rod receiving the save chance on opening day, and it’s pretty safe to say that barring injury, he will hang onto the job for the rest of the year. Oh, and Henderson has been sidelined for more than a month with a shoulder injury.

Grade: A

3. Jenrry Mejia (Purchased for $25 by Nando DiFino on 5/19)

Mejia certainly has the stuff to be a quality big league closer, but after getting off to a strong start in his new role, his ERA in June is 11.25. To make matters worse, he’s now dealing with a back injury. The good news is that the injury isn’t considered serious, and it’s not like the Mets have many other appealing ninth inning options. Plus, Nando has already gotten five saves from Jenrry. That’s one more save than Singman received from Joe Smith, at half the price.

Grade: B-

4. Ronald Belisario (Purchased for $24 by David Gonos on 5/26)

You’re probably better off not watching Belisario pitch these days. Trust me, you don’t need the added stress. But he has converted each of his last three save chances, tossing a perfect inning in two of those appearances. Belisario is clearly Robin Ventura’s preferred option to handle stopper duties, and he could very well get on a roll and remain the closer for the rest of the season. As of now, however, his leash isn’t long, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this eventually turns into a committee situation involving Belisario, Daniel Webb and Jake Petricka. And for fantasy owners, there are few phrases more irritating than “closer by committee.”

Grade: C+

5. Zach Britton (Purchased for $22 by Scott Pianowski on 5/19)

On May 9th, Tommy Hunter picked up his 11th save in 12 chances and sported a 3.29 ERA. Less than a week later, he was out as the Orioles closer, and Britton has taken full advantage since notching his first career save on May 15th, converting seven of his eight save opportunities while allowing just one run over 14 1/3 innings. Not too long ago, Britton was a high-end starting pitching prospect, but he could never quite figure things out at the big league level. Moving to the bullpen seems to have done the trick. He should continue to be a reliable source of saves the rest of the way. Factoring in the prices, a case could be made that Britton was an even better pickup than K-Rod, but Rodriguez’s extensive track record does count for something.

Grade: A-

Sure, not properly addressing saves on draft day is a mistake that can be remedied to a degree during the season through FAAB. But as this balanced grade distribution suggests, there’s plenty of luck involved. All we can do is make the best decision possible using the information we are given at the time.

So, to my fellow Tout Mixed Auction owners, please don’t take these grades too seriously.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 June 2014 09:24
 
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